The Cable Debacle

Dennis and I are just completing a 3-day visit with Ginny when she receives a notice from the cable company.  They will be converting their signal to digital for all Florida customers and her zip code is next. Apparently, she will need different converter boxes to pick up that new signal.

Although they are giving her a month’s notice, we know that we will not be back before the switch. As much as I am longing to hit the I-4 traffic before it gets ugly on a Friday, we have to tackle this exchange first. (You may remember that in order to save money, I had handled the switch from one carrier to another. Ginny’s account is under my phone number, so I need to be the one to get the boxes.)

And just to throw in a cruel twist of fate, they’ve moved their offices this week. It’s complete chaos. Dennis and I get to their office by 9:30 am. Too late. There are so many people, there is a woman with a clipboard by the door taking names.  I give her my name. They have chairs lined up outside and a big tub of cold water bottles. It’s Florida. Luckily, there’s a fast outside rotation and we get to grab the last two of thirty seats inside.

We watch as numerous people go up to the counter, then leave with their digital prizes. Finally, it’s our turn. The woman is pleasant. I provide my phone number.

“Ok, your number does pull up Ginny XYZ. Is she here?” she asked.

“No”, I reply “she’s 87 and hard of hearing. I’m taking care of this for her.”

“Well, unfortunately, it looks like you are not authorized on the account” she informs me. “You mother would have to be here to receive the converter boxes.”

“How can this be?” I ask.

“It’s my phone number on the account. I stood in this spot a year ago with my mother and we opened the account” I shared, getting frustrated. “She can’t deal with this” and I wave my arm around the chaotic room.

“I completely understand” she responds sympathetically. And then, she surprised me.

She slid a small piece of paper towards me and lowered her voice.

“Here, call this number. It’s customer service. Say that you are your mother and you are authorizing to have your daughter on the account” she explained, looking at me. “And when you’re done, come back here.”

I get it and nod. I am hardly someone who enjoys perpetrating a fraud, but there are times in life when you have to use common sense to cut through the BS. This will expedite the process enormously.

I sheepishly walk into a corner of the room, make the call and return to her counter.

“Oh, good, I see you’re listed on the account” and we both share a laugh. “How can I help you?”

We return to Ginny’s apartment and I realize I have made a fatal mistake. I thought Ginny’s bedroom television was a flat screen, but it’s a much older model. The box I got will not work.  

We have run out of time on this project and I accept that I will have to have a service call to complete her bedroom set-up. But for now, the old signal will continue to work in that room. We are able to get her living room television hooked up and the new remote control is programmed and activated.

“Is that a new remote?” my mother asks with concern.

“Yes. We have to use it for your television to work mom.”

I sit next to her and explain that the button marked TV is her on-off button. Aside from the channels or volume, she doesn’t have to touch any other button.  I do not share any information about the cable button turning on and off the box. My plan is to keep the box on at all times to make it easier for her.

We practice using the remote. She enters the numbers of the channels she likes and everything is working well.

When we get into the car, Dennis asks “How long before we get a phone call about that remote?” I burst out laughing.

It actually takes several hours. About 6:00 pm, mom calls. Apparently she hit the “cable” on-off button and turned the box off. I walk her through turning the box back on and then the television.

Getting creative with tape

Concerned, however, I check up on her the next day and she is watching television in her bedroom.

“It’s not working, but I’ll just stay in the bedroom” she said.

“No, mom, that’s not right. You have to be able to spend time in your living room. Go out there now while I’m on the phone and let’s try again.”

We go through the steps again, but this time there is a moment of understanding.

“Oh, the pretty green lights are back” she shares.

“Yes!” I explain that the lights are part of the cable box and you have to see the lights to know the box is on.

“Well, you didn’t say that before” she replies.

In truth, this was an ongoing issue despite the lights. As you can see, we tried tape too, but to no avail. We eventually learned that patience was the primary culprit. It takes about 10 seconds for the t.v. screen to light up and she was giving it 3 before hitting other buttons.


This can be helpful if you are not a fast drive over to your parent(s).

Take photos of the:

  • Television remote
  • Dishwasher panel
  • Thermostat
  • Microwave panel
  • CD Player (front and back for plugs)

When a confused parent calls about a device, you can refer to the photos to better troubleshoot over the phone.